What SMB CEO’s and Executives Must Know to Start Market Research
Most CEOs and executives of small to mid-sized businesses (SMB) are aware of market research and what it has accomplished for other companies. But some think conducting market research ONLY works for bigger companies. Of course, that is NOT true. Market research can help any company grow by giving it the all-important competitive edge. And for the majority of small business CEOs and executives, the only thing that holds them back from exploring market research is not knowing how to get started.
What CEOs and Executives Should Expect of Market Research
The need to execute a market research project with a research firm becomes painfully clear when a business fails to meet customer needs. As a result, the business begins to lose customers, market share, and money. In that situation, a market research analysis becomes a means to survival. But CEOs and executives should also know that a market research project can improve any business – even a successful one. Proactively implementing a market research project can help ensure that a successful business persists in an increasingly competitive and demanding global marketplace.
Market research is essentially a common sense approach to solving problems using disciplined and structured methodology. Most people would agree that it is common sense to understand a problem before trying to solve it. Market Action Research’s approach includes understanding the problem, collecting and analyzing the data, and identifying the root cause in order to implement the corrective action/solution. It is a data-driven methodology, meaning decisions are based on facts and data, not gut feelings or how it is done somewhere else.
Since most functions in business, or in life for that matter, can be seen as processes, Market Action Research aims to understand, analyze, and improve processes via research projects. These projects study one process at a time with the goal of improving its results.
As people become more familiar with the basic benefits of market research, they might wonder why anyone would not use it. Why spend time and money carrying out a solution to a problem without understanding what caused the problem in the first place? How could anyone be certain the problem will not be reoccurring if they are not confident about what initially caused the crisis? How many solutions will it take (and how much time and money spent) to solve the same problem over and over before the “correct” solution, the one that addresses the root cause, is implemented?
What Does the CEO or Executive Do to Get Started?
Once the decision has been made to employ a market research project, a CEO or executive should determine how authority and control (governance) of the market research project will be addressed. Does the CEO or executive have the time to be responsible for the strategic, tactical and management decisions required for Market Action Research’s research projects? If not, there may be a need for a governance body, such as a group of company executives. The CEO/governance body should create the ground rules for who will oversee the progress and completion of the research project. In any case, the CEO must be totally committed to the idea of market research. Anything less and the research project is unlikely to succeed.
Once the Governance Core is Formed
Once the CEO or executives have chosen how authority and control of the market research project will be addressed, a decision will be made to identify what research projects to undertake first. Business should first focus on aspects of the company that are not performing to expected or desired levels. The goal should be to minimize processes that do not add value to the products and/or services and to improve processes that do add value. To know where performance is lacking and needs improvement, performance data (measurements) must be available. If measurement data is not available, it must be collected before work can begin. Performance measures are essential at the completion of every market research project to prove that performance improved. In the data-driven research methodology of Market Action Research, performance metrics are the final word.
Typically, early projects focus on improving aspects of the business that affect cost, quality, launch of a new idea/campaign, or customer satisfaction. When choices have to be made it is always appropriate to start with areas that are causing customer dissatisfaction because the customer is the main source of revenue.
What Does the CEO or Executives Do Next?
To be successful, Market Action Research needs more from the CEO or executives than a go/no-go decision and the delegation of program responsibilities. Market research projects work best with a top-down approach – when the CEO and senior leaders own it, support it and drive it. What comes after the initial deployment depends on how far into the business and how ingrained into the everyday thinking and approach the CEO or executives wants to drive it.
Some businesses may be content with having a small, specialized set of research projects to help solve difficult problems. Some may want the market research project concepts and tools permeated throughout the business and so ingrained in the thinking that there is no other way to do business. Others may be somewhere in between. Every business, regardless of its size, has to learn what works and what does not in its particular culture.
Whatever the degree of implementation, all will benefit from embracing market research, concepts, tools and methodologies. There are no losers when a business refines and optimizes business decisions with a market research project while constantly focusing on the customer and the drive to increase the value of products and services.